Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


him by his teacher—the Fables, the Dialogues of the Dead, and
the Telemachus. In acknowledgement of his efforts, Louis made
Fenelon Archbishop of Cambrai. But the publication of the
Telemachus with its revolutionary views of the State, and the
position he took up in a bitter theological controversy, brought
about his fall from royal favour. The title of " preceptor of
the children of France " previously conferred on him was with-
drawn, and he was compelled to confine himself closely to his
archiepiscopal duties for the rest of his life.

The treatise On the Education of Girls is not in any sense
a great book. It is somewhat discursive; the underlying psy-
chology is crude; and except in regard to religious education,
its prescription of subjects and methods of instruction are vague
in the extreme. Yet it was of far more account in educational
development than most of the really great books on education.
Both with respect to the education of girls, which was its special
theme, and with respect to education in general, it marked a new
beginning in educational thought. The very fact that it discussed
the education of girls at all was of great significance at a time when
the generous views of the Renaissance in regard to women had
been forgotten and better-class girls were either left uneducated or
trained in a narrow illiterate piety in convents. Fenelon himself
had no very high ideal of womanhood. He did not believe, for
example, in learned women. Women in his opinion have no
need of much of the knowledge that men possess. They cannot
govern a State, or make war, or enter holy orders, and so can do
very well without political science, jurisprudence, philosophy and
theology. " It is enough if one day they know how to rule their
households and obey their husbands without arguing about it."*
Nevertheless he would not have them left wholly in ignorance.
An ignorant woman has no way of employing herself innocently,
and is harmed both in body and mind by mental idleness. " They
are eager to know what is said and done. They want to be told
everything and to tell it again. They are vain, and their vanity
makes them loquacious. They are frivolous, and their frivolity
prevents the reflection which would often make them hold
their tongues."f The cure for these defects Fenelon finds in
" solid learning " in matters appropriate to their sex. In addition
to an extensive training in religious knowledge, he would -give

* Chapter i.                         t Chapter L